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Why It's Not a Parent's Job to Make Their Kids Feel Happy

The True Goal of Parenting: Raising Resilient and Emotionally Healthy Children


As parents, it’s natural to want our children to be happy. We often equate their happiness with our success in parenting. However, the primary goal is not to make our kids feel happy all the time. Instead, it’s crucial to support them in feeling their feelings and navigating through them. This approach fosters resilience and emotional health, preparing them to face life's inevitable challenges.

 

The Importance of Feeling All Emotions

 

  • Embracing Hard Feelings:

When children learn to feel and process difficult emotions, they develop resilience. They begin to understand that feelings, no matter how intense, are temporary and manageable. This knowledge builds inner strength and confidence, helping them cope with future challenges.


  • Consequences of Shielding Kids from Emotions:

When parents step in too quickly to remove obstacles or rescue their children from difficult feelings, they inadvertently send the message that these emotions are to be avoided. This can lead to emotional dysfunction, such as suppression of feelings, withdrawal, or unexpected outbursts. By not allowing children to experience and work through their emotions, we hinder their ability to handle stress and adversity.

 

The Role of Parents in Emotional Development

 

  • Creating a Safe Space for Emotions:

Parents could aim to create an environment where all emotions are valid and can be expressed safely. This means not minimizing or dismissing a child's feelings because they make us uncomfortable. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and offer support without immediately trying to fix the situation.

 

  • Allowing Room for Mistakes and Obstacles:

Children learn and grow through facing and overcoming challenges. If at every twist or turn in life kids are being reprimanded, put-down or punished for mistakes or “accidents”, they will develop coping mechanisms such as hiding truths about when mistakes were made, withdrawing from parents, or just not going for it when it comes to opportunities in life for fear of making mistakes. If school systems continue to put emphasis on “scores” where mistakes are marked with “red pen” and the effort based on that unique child’s attempts at a project or event in school aren’t considered, then are we really setting them up for success and resilience? (Unique children: each child comes to each moment of each day with their own history of life – be it trauma, developmental challenges, neurodiversity, etc.)


Additionally, when parents constantly pave the way for their kids, they miss out on crucial learning opportunities. It's important to allow space for mistakes and obstacles, ensuring, of course, that safety, health, and wellness are not compromised. This approach teaches children that it’s okay to struggle and that they have the capacity to overcome difficulties.

 

Avoiding Emotional Rescue

 

  • Rescuing Creates Dependency:

When parents frequently rescue their children from uncomfortable emotions or challenging situations, they can create dependency. Children might come to rely on their parents to solve their problems, which undermines their ability to handle stress independently.

 

  • Negative Impact on Emotional Expression:

If children sense that their feelings inconvenience their parents, they may start to hide or suppress their emotions. This can lead to bottled-up feelings that eventually explode as emotional outbursts. Instead of viewing certain emotions as negative or inconvenient, parents could encourage open expression and provide tools for managing these feelings. The challenge is that many parents don’t have information or tools to understand their child’s behaviours beneath which lay a plethora of feelings and thoughts that remain invisible. Additionally, many parents aren’t equipped with tools and strategies for their own emotional challenges – because they were not given these tools during their own childhood – and this exacerbates the challenges in family dynamics. This is where Parent Coaching can come in to support parents in deep and empathic ways.  

 

Building Resilience and Confidence

 

  • Coping Through Emotions:

Guiding children how to cope with their emotions is a fundamental aspect of building resilience. This involves co-regulating with children, guiding them through difficult feelings, helping them understand their emotions, and finding healthy ways to express and manage them. The challenge is that many parents end up “logicalizing” with their emotional children in-the-moment when children are still feeling big things; their “logical” brains are offline and may not respond effectively to a lot of rationalizing which can actually lead to further frustration, or, lead to the child internalizing their experiences. Parents may also attempt to move a child from a “negative” feeling to a more positive one before the child has processed through their stress; this can create a variety of long-term undesired outcomes. And moreover, if a child continues to show distressing feelings, parents who are feeling overwhelmed and tired (and rightfully so…) might then reprimand the child because the parent is triggered. To soothe this cycle, professional support can be crucial. Reach out for Parent Coaching support.


You can also pick up my Coping Skills Card Deck here – it’s set of illustrated cards that offering coping tools/strategies for kids. (Suitable for ages 2 through 12.)

 

  • Confidence Through Overcoming Challenges:

Confidence comes from facing and overcoming difficult situations. When children see that they can navigate tough circumstances with their parents' support, their confidence grows. Witnessing kids struggle can be uncomfortable for parents, but it's a vital part of their development. (And when I say “struggle” I don’t mean unsafe, dangerous, sickness/disease, or life-threatening struggle – I mean “safe struggle,” like not knowing the answer to a certain question, or not being able to score a goal during a soccer game, or having a friend move away, or do “hard” work in therapy or coaching sessions with Coach Ashley, etc.) Some parents, myself included, struggled a lot during their childhoods, so they come to the table with the conviction that “I will not let my child struggle.” I understand that, except, we may often swing in the total opposite direction based on how we are projecting our own childhoods onto our children. This does them a disservice in the long run…

 

  • Healthy Choices for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing:

Encouraging children to learn how to make healthy choices that support their mental and emotional wellbeing is crucial. This can include teaching them about self-care, the importance of rest, physical activity, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.


Before we do this, we need to help the parent and the child determine what are their CORE values, understand their CORE NEEDS, and then determine how these play into decision making processes. Thankfully, I coach Kids and Parents on value determination, discovering core needs in various situations, and how to make healthy decisions using unique tools, resources and strategies. All of this is not stuff normally taught in schools, and for most of us who are parents today, we didn’t learn this as children because our parents didn’t know it either.


You and your children can get a head start with my Parent’s Pocket Guide to Kids CORE Human Needs and Kids Needs Cue Cards available online. (Suitable for age 2 through 14-ish)

 

Conclusion

 

It is not our job to make our kids happy. Instead, we must guide, coach, and teach them to become empowered, resilient individuals who can navigate what life throws at them. By supporting our children in feeling their emotions and working through them, we prepare them to face the world with strength and confidence. This approach, while often challenging, ultimately leads to deeper, more lasting contentment, life success and fulfillment.

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